‘13 Reasons Why’ panel tackles topics related to mental health

“Triggered” is a trendy term often used in a colloquial sense as a seemingly harmless joke, but the Health and Counseling Center held a panel on the Netflix original “13 Reasons Why” that has been a legitimate trigger for some since its debut in March.

The show and novel center on the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s death, wherein the high schooler leaves cassette tapes detailing the events that brought her to the decision of death by suicide.

The tapes are addressed to 13 people she holds responsible for her suicide.

“The smallest sliver [of suicides] would be suicidal attempt related to communication, and such is trying to communicate something like revenge, trying to communicate betrayal, guilt or shame,” panelist Adam McCormick said. “We have this incredible opportunity to talk about suicide and we’re essentially talking about the least common form of suicide.”

The panel discussed topics the series delves into rather than the show itself, and there were anonymously asked questions on mental health and sexual assault.

Though the show has received criticism for Hannah communicating guilt, critics also point out that it fails to show depression or a mental health disorder as being linked to Hannah’s suicide.

Panelist and associate director of campus ministry Liza Manjarrez pointed to a subtle scene alluding to Hannah feeling depressed when her father expresses that Hannah’s suicide might have happened even if she had attended high school in a different city.

When it comes to real life encounters, Professor Pamela Malone noted signs of suicidal thoughts, like isolation and lack of involvement in activities they used to enjoy.

“If you’re seeing something, or you’re feeling something that makes you think that a classmate might be in crisis, it’s perfectly OK for you to ask, you know, from what I’m hearing, I’m wondering if you’re thinking about suicide,” said McCormick. “You don’t want to not have that conversation.”

When the conversation shifted to sexual assault, peer health educator and panelist Rawan Ashrawi said, “One of the biggest things you can do is not only affirm and believe the survivor and tell them how courageous and strong they are when they’re confiding in you, it’s keeping their thoughts safe and that the information will stay in confidence.”

Manjarrez expressed the opinion that “13 Reasons Why” protagonist Clay Jenson should not have been on the tapes since he respected Hannah’s boundaries and practiced consent.

“While they were getting busy, he said ‘Is this OK?’ He asked for consent before, he asked during and immediately- the minute it turned not OK- he stopped and he left,” said Manjarrez. “He did exactly what she wanted.”

Panelists agreed the decision to watch the show is a personal one, but to keep in mind that viewing can be triggering for those in a vulnerable mental health state.

“One of the things that is difficult to me is the portrayal of the actual act. It’s like a handbook for how to effectively kill yourself,” said Manjarrez. “Clearly this isn’t introducing a new idea, but it is introducing a pretty good how-to.”